Objective: To assess the prevalence and relationship of retinopathy lesions in older subjects without diabetes to systemic hypertension.
Methods: Three thousand six hundred fifty-four people aged 49 years or older attending the Blue Mountains Eye Study underwent a detailed eye examination, including medical history, blood pressure measurement, and fasting blood collection. Retinopathy lesions (hemorrhages and microaneurysms) were assessed from masked grading of stereoretinal photographs. Subjects with a history of diabetes or an elevated blood glucose level were excluded. Hypertension was defined as the current use of antihypertensive medications or an elevated blood pressure measurement on examination.
Results: Retinopathy was present in 325 subjects without diabetes, a prevalence of 9.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 8.9%-10.9%), which increased with age. An increased age-adjusted relative risk (RR) for retinopathy was found for women (RR, 1.67; 95% CI, 1.26-2.21) and men (RR, 1.47; 95% CI, 1.07-2.00) with hypertension. In people using antihypertensive medications, retinopathy prevalence was higher for uncontrolled compared with controlled blood pressure but was not related to hypertension duration. Significant (P=.02 to P=.001) trends were found between increasing blood pressure quartiles and age-adjusted retinopathy prevalence, a relationship that was maintained after adjusting for fasting plasma glucose level at 3 diagnostic cut points for diabetes.
Conclusions: This study supports the Beaver Dam Eye Study findings that retinal hemorrhages and microaneurysms are relatively frequent lesions in older people without diabetes and are significantly related to the presence and severity of hypertension.